Williams puts pressure on free agency

Credit: AP Photo/Dave Einsel

After making Mario Williams the first pick in 2006, the Texans will likely lose him to free agency.The Houston Texans surprised a lot of people when they chose to take defensive end Mario Williams with the first pick in 2006 NFL draft and not running back Reggie Bush.

Williams did not disappoint, becoming Houston’s all-time sacks leader with 53. Now, Williams will likely be the most sought-after defensive player when free agency begins Tuesday at 4 ET.

In the last five seasons, Williams averaged 0.73 sacks per game, only DeMarcus Ware (1.0) and Jared Allen (0.99) had higher averages among players with at least 20 sacks.

Williams had five sacks in as many games in 2011 before he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. Houston’s defense played just as well last season after Williams suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 (see chart).

Texans Defense Last Season

Williams has 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Despite the Texans using five or more rushers at the third-highest rate over that span, Williams picked up 10 sacks when part of a pass rush that sent four or fewer after the quarterback.

Williams isn’t the only free agent who can get after the quarterback. With Jason Taylor’s recent retirement, John Abraham will enter 2012 as the leader in sacks among active players with 112. Abraham has recorded all 22.5 of his sacks the last two seasons when part of a four or fewer man pass rush. Only Jared Allen (26.0) and Jason Babin (23.5) have more as part of such rushes.

The Tennessee Titans are one of many teams that will be interested in a pass-rusher like Williams, but one player who might not be back with the Titans is cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Last season, Finnegan played every defensive snap for the Titans, one of five defensive players in the NFL to play every snap for his team. His 1,142 snaps played were the third-most by a defensive player last season. He’s also started 42 straight games, the fourth-longest active streak among cornerbacks.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers intercepted a career-high six passes last season (previous high was two), with five coming on throws traveling at least 15 yards downfield. Only Chargers safety Eric Weddle had more interceptions on throws of such distances. And since 2008, Rogers’ 66 pass breakups is tied for fifth most in the NFL.